If you’ve ever been in New York on the last Friday of any month, you’ve probably come into contact with the NYC Critical Mass bike ride wherein hundreds of bicyclists “spontaneously come together to ride the ordinarily car-clogged streets of their cities.” I’ve seen this spectacle twice completely by chance, and it’s awesome.
Tension has been rising between these peaceful bikers and police, who claim their actions to be a dangerous act. This dispute reached its apex during the RNC when the NYC office of transportation declared Critical Mass to be “Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Governmental Administration.” Since then numerous bikers have been harassed and sometimes even arrested on charges of traffic violations. Yesterday I recieved this email from my friend Jamie:
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 12:26:45 -0500 (EST)
From: Jamie Rollins
Subject: biking is a crimeSo you guys might be interested to hear that I was arrested Friday night for riding my bicycle here in New York City. Yes, you heard me right; I was arrested for riding my bike, IN A BIKE LANE, in Manhattan on Friday night. I was riding during the monthly Critical Mass bike rally, which the city of New York seems to have deemed a criminal activity.
My bicycle has also been confiscated by the police, completely illegally as it turns out. Not that any of this is particularly legal anyway. I was charged with a violation of “parading without a permit and disorderly conduct”. Lawyers from the Nation Lawyers Guild have taken to accompanying the Critical Mass to document the abuses by the police. The lawyer who has contacted me likened the situation to “being arrested and having your car inbounded for running a red light”. It’s unclear how and when I will be able to recover my bike.
My court date is set for February 23rd. I plan on fighting every charge they throw at me.
To get a sense of how bad it is in New York right now, a city council woman recently tried to pass a bill that would make it illegal to ride a bicycle in the city at all without a permit, punishable by fines and jail time. Luckily it didn’t pass. Meanwhile, some car plowed over two pedestrians trying to cross the street at the corner outside our apartment a couple of weeks ago. And the night before the Mass, a gang of hoodlums shot and killed a woman walking home from a club in the lower east side. But apparently the New York City police is so overstaffed that they can send 50 police officers to arrest people riding their bikes down the street.
Update: I apologize for the problem with the comments. It’s been fixed, and all of the comments should be public now.